Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Feeling Guilty

Another instance of the gut-wrenching manifestation of OCD reached the news headlines yesterday. The story of a 10-year-old boy in Britain racked with guilt about the 9/11 terrorist attacks is a predicament all too familiar. This lad apparently had to step on a particular white spot on the road every day to avert tragedy and on that fateful 9/11, he failed to do so. The boy has reportedly felt guilty ever since. It's a parallel of the ages-old "step on a crack break your mother's back game," but one that's not filled with childish humor. I'm not sure of the statistics, but I know it's not uncommon for folks with OCD to show up at their local police station to confess to crimes they didn't commit.Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Picture Of The Day

What is this? It's called Sakebi no Tsufu, the “Shouting Vase” and helps you relieve stress by screaming into its thermoplastic body, which absorbs most of the sound waves into a whisper. So they say. Found at and available for $48 JP, but apparently is available only in Japan for the time being.Sphere: Related Content

Whatever Gets Ya Through

So it’s “destructoterapia” time of year again in Spain. This year, the target of rage were washing machines and refrigerators and Stop Stress Navarra staged the event in Castejon, in northern Spain. Jorge Arribas, Francisco PĂ©rez and Hani Charwani, three Spanish entrepreneurs, created Destructoterapia in 2003. Over the years, the victims have been cars, computers, copy machines and phones, all the markers of our frenzy for survival. Interestingly, only 40% of the participants this year were women. As for me, I think I'll opt for the traditional Spanish siesta...
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Friday is D-Day for Our Friends

I'm a big believer that pets really are wonderful support for all of us. That's why I'm taking a moment to give props to my friend Chris in Georgia and his site. Chris likes to remind us that down in Georgia, Fridays are D-Days for our furry friends and companions. I don't know if LA County has a specific day of the week for euthanizing unclaimed dogs, cats and other critters, but you can check the shelter locations and see how many you can handle. Meanwhile, kudos to Chris for being a virtual volunteer!
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Racism and the "Boogie Man"

I noticed this interesting post of opinions on a wave of violence washing over Chattanooga, Tennessee. No shortage of racial subtexts there, for sure, but it inspired today's entry. In Tipper Gore fashion, posters rapped hip hop culture for influencing a whole generation of thugs in Chattanooga and beyond. But how realistic is that, really? I can't imagine a scenario in which music could turn an otherwise reasonably well-adjusted kid or adult with a functional conscience into a killing machine.

Could a culture, though, offer enough incentives and rationalizations to nudge the same kid to kill a cop for gang initiation? Could a black subculture's norms and mores turn even dormant racism into a nascent one? The sad irony is the answers are yes, yes, and it already has.

When Snoop Dogg rhymed in "Serial Killa" that:

"One gun is all that we need, to put you to rest
Pump pump, put 2 slugs dead in your chest
Now you dead then a motherfucker, creepin and sleepin
6 feet deep in, fuckin with the Pound is"

he served up a very small slice of black American life. To many in the nation, it was a hardcore affirmation of the archetypal black man as thug, solid proof that "those" people are no damn good. To some kid wavering between doing the right thing and the practical thing, the repeated message that it was or is good enough for Snoop coupled with peer and even family pressures can result in tragedy for everyone in this circle. To wit, the final 2004 statistics from the CDC confirm that homicide was the sixth leading cause of death for blacks, versus the 20th for whites.

Then there is the "ghetto fabulous" phenomenon which has provided comic relief but at a cost. In 2003, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study in which job applications with "black-sounding" names a la Cheniqua and Teniqua got a whopping 50% fewer call backs from employers than did those with more traditional "white" names. And while jobs may have been harder to come by, so-called conspicuous consumption (i.e., clothes, jewelry and cars) by blacks and Hispanics outpaced that of everyone else, according to a study published in 2007. What suffered among these subgroups of backs and Hispanics? Spending on healthcare and education.

What to make of all this? Here's my psychological spin: A small subculture of blacks willingly adopted the shadow role ascribed to them by the dominant culture. The pay-off? A youthful black subculture no longer had to try, and the a dominant, mostly white culture got to put the feared and hated Negro back in his place. But so as not to appear racist, it had to look like the black man's idea. A tidy little circle, isn't it?

How did this happen? I believe that in the post-Civil Rights era, blacks awakened from Martin Luther King's dream and found they were better off but it wasn't better enough. Whispers then shouts of a learned helplessness passed from one generation to the next. A disconsolate wind whipped through the urban black communities. The ascendance of crack and gangs slapped them with a final, overwhelming insult. An already disenfranchised subculture of young blacks felt even more adrift, finally throwing up their hands and saying, "You know what? We can't get ahead, won't get a job, don't have the smarts, and have no other options than the thugged-out and ghettoized facsimiles of life."

When will the younger generation of inner city African Americans realize that playing the "boogie man" is not the only option? That they will only marginalize themselves further and mortgage their children's future in the name of playing the helpless victim? Is anyone even listening?
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Justin Timberlake Has OCD?

There's a news story making the rounds today that Justin Timberlake "confessed" he has OCD and ADD during an interview posted June 16 on Why it took so long to make it to the mainstream media is anyone's guess, but the buzz seems to have began this morning when the Arizona Republic took the story and ran with it.

My questions: Was disclosing a true mental illness his real intent? Or was his comment a flip off-the-cuff and in-the-moment joke? We don't know for sure, since no statements have been forthcoming from the Tennman's camp. Fortunately, Collider published an audio recording of the actual interview. Here's what I heard.

Timberlake comes into the room for a group interview about the upcoming film, The Love Guru. He is apparently arranging the tape recorders on the table, possibly to make room for a cup of coffee, based on the snippets of conversation. Someone in the background asks jokingly, "Do you have the OCD where you have to fix everything?" To which Timberlake retorts, "No. Yes. I have OCD and ADD. I mean, you try living with that!" A lot of shifting around and giggling can be heard, then on to the interview. That's the entirety of Justin's so-called confession.

The story in the Republic is somber. "Justin Timberlake says he suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The 27-year-old singer has revealed the condition affects many parts of his daily life - right down to making sure objects are always lined up perfectly. Justin, who also claims he has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is quoted by website as saying: "I have OCD mixed with ADD. You try living with that. It's complicated." Sounds adequately confessional, no?

Justin, if you have OCD, three cheers for you! Well done! Whenever a celebrity, especially a bright, talented and uber-achiever like Timberlake comes out of a closet, any closet, the positive shockwaves can ripple throughout society and have beneficial effects.

On the other hand, if it's a case of a few reporters and editors making hay out of a comment made in jest, shame on them for making fools of themselves and, in many minds, their profession. And let's not forget the celebrity who may have been unwittingly caught up in this.
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Tim Russert & The Ineptitude of Death

Reading an AP story yesterday about reactions of ordinary fiftysomething men to the death of newsman Tim Russert reminded me of our denial of death. It was as if the wings of mortality had grazed the tops of their heads, as they so often do in these cases. The cruelty of the Grim Reaper's apparently arbitary choices for harvest is eased only a bit by platitudes like, "God picks his most beautiful flowers first."
Leo Tolstoy wrote a novella titled The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Bantam Classics) which informed my earliest thinking about death and continues to do so. In it, he deftly describes the sort of magical thinking in which we might wallow: "In addition to the speculation aroused in each man's mind about the transfers and likely job changes this death might occasion, the very fact of the death of a close acquaintance evoked in them all the usual feeling of relief that it was someone else, not they, who had died." Later he wrote, "'Ivan Ilyich has really bungled--not the sort of thing you and I would do.'"
Death as a symbol of weakness feeds our delusion of immortality. We certainly wouldn't be inept enough to die, would we?
Rest in peace, Mr. Russert.
ps. The beautiful "Lonely Tree" photo is courtesy of Tomasz Turczynski, an up and coming photographer in Poland.
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